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Now you can visit a real-life ‘Hobbit Hole’ in New Zealand

The sweeping landscapes of New Zealand are, for many “Lord of the Rings” fans, inextricably linked to the fictional land of Middle‑earth.

And while the home of the Hobbits was the product of author J.R.R. Tolkien’s imagination – and therefore sadly off limits to tourists – the Hobbiton Movie Set provides a pretty good substitute.

Once a sheep farm southwest of the town of Matamata in the Waikato region, in 1998 a visit from “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson put this unassuming location firmly on the movie map. The farm – located about two hours south of Auckland on the North Island – became the backdrop to the three original “Lord of the Rings” movies, as well as the subsequent Hobbit trilogy.

The Hobbit sets – mostly facades built into landscaped hillsides – have operated as a tourist attraction in some capacity since 2002, but until recently most of the Hobbit Holes have been out of bounds to visitors.

The Hobbiton Movie Set formed the backdrop to the "Lord of the Rings" movies and the subsequent Hobbit trilogy and is now a tourist attraction. - Shaun Jeffers
The Hobbiton Movie Set formed the backdrop to the "Lord of the Rings" movies and the subsequent Hobbit trilogy and is now a tourist attraction. - Shaun Jeffers

Now, two fully decorated Hobbit Holes have opened to the public for the first time. Expect interiors expertly recreated by the skilled illustrators and designers who worked on the movies, evoking the cozy, welcoming spirit of a hobbit’s home.

In a statement, director Peter Jackson said Hobbiton remains his favorite “Lord of the Rings” movie location, and expressed his delight at the fact the Hobbit Holes are now open to visitors.

“There’s a sense of curiosity when you’re at Hobbiton and desire to venture beyond the door, but of course it’s remained closed, until now,” he said. “The team have done a fantastic job bringing the experience to life. It looks like it’s been lifted straight out of the pages of […] Tolkien’s book.”

Peeking inside

The Hobbit Holes have been decorated in detail by experts who worked on the original films. - Shaun Jeffers
The Hobbit Holes have been decorated in detail by experts who worked on the original films. - Shaun Jeffers

Exploring the Hobbit Holes is now included as part of the Hobbiton tour experience. Travelers will be invited to explore one of two holes, which are described as each having a “slightly different footprint” but both “designed to provide our visitors with an identical experience.”

Each hole features what Hobbiton calls a “labyrinth of fully themed rooms” – entry hall, bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, dining room, pantry and parlor. The level of authentic detail should delight “Lord of the Rings” fans, who are invited to linger and explore each space – although taller guests may have to crouch a little.

The Hobbiton movie set tour costs $120 NZ (around $74 USD) for adults and $60 NZ (around $37 USD) for children aged 17 and under.

LOTR and New Zealand

If you’re planning a LOTR-themed New Zealand pilgrimage, there are plenty of other destinations to visit once you’ve ticked off Hobbiton. The New Zealand tourism board proudly states that filming took place in over 150 locations across the country’s North and South Islands.

Highlights include Tongariro Alpine Crossing on the North Island – a big day trek that takes in Mount Ngauruhoe (which doubled up as Mount Doom). Travelers can also enjoy skiing on the North Island on Mount Ruapehu, which also stood in for Mount Doom and parts of Mordor.

New Zealand's Mount Ngauruhoe which doubled up as Mount Doom in the "Lord of the Rings" movies. - travellinglight/iStockphoto/Getty Images
New Zealand's Mount Ngauruhoe which doubled up as Mount Doom in the "Lord of the Rings" movies. - travellinglight/iStockphoto/Getty Images

UK-based “Lord of the Rings” fan Conor McNish-Lane, now in his early 30s, told CNN Travel he looks back fondly on a trip to New Zealand taken when he was a teenager.

“I loved seeing how much the country embraced what many around the globe consider to be the greatest movie trilogy in film history,” he said.

McNish-Lane enjoyed spotting locations recognizable from the “Lord of the Rings.” A particular highlight was a day spent at Mount Sunday, near the Rangitata River in Hakatere Conservation Park in southern New Zealand, which doubled up as the Home of Edoras.

“It was an incredible walk in a very remote location around the Home of Edoras - Rohan’s capital city - where in the movies, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Gandalf meet with King Théoden,” recalled McNish-Lane.

“There were no actual structures on Mount Sunday left as they were temporary builds at the time for the movies but there was a plaque to acknowledge what had taken place and you could just really feel and sense the incredible atmosphere and why they chose the location.”

From Mount Sunday, hikers can also admire Dry Creek Quarry, the site used as Helm’s Deep.

“For any LOTR fans out there, they’ll know that the people of Rohan take a long and treacherous walk to Helm’s Deep which sets the stage for the final epic battle of the second movie, ‘The Two Towers,’” said McNish-Lane.

“What fans may not know is that you can easily see the site of Helm’s Deep - which was also a temporary structure built on the side of a nearby mountain in the valley - from Mount Sunday, as they’re actually quite close.”

McNish-Lane didn’t make it to Hobbiton on his previous trip, but the news that the site’s expanded and the Hobbit Holes have opened up has him daydreaming about future adventures.

“I live in London and I’m 32 now so it’s been a long time since I was in NZ,” he said. “Of all the movie sets in the world, reading about Hobbiton makes me want to hop on a plane and take that long journey back to Middle-earth.”

CNN’s Thomas Page contributed to this article

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